Tips on coping during the holidays:
As the holiday season approaches, getting together with friends and family may be something we look forward to. We often think of the holidays as a time for children – a magical time.
But the holidays can conjure up bad memories. Even when personal experiences have changed, the anxiety associated with the past can flood into the present and taint it. Being prepared, knowing your limitations, and planning can keep things manageable.
For the addict in recovery, the holidays can be difficult and a time when there is a risk for relapse. If you are not with your family, this is a time of year when you may miss them more. You may feel lonely even when you are with others. Going back to the basics in recovery is a good way to cope.
Attend extra 12-step or support meetings. Stay involved with recovery activities. Host an event for friends who are also in recovery. Stay in touch with your sponsor and your counsellor if you have one. If you do not have one, get one. Take a few minutes every day for reflection. Use one of those little books that have a daily inspiration. Write a few lines in a diary and work on developing “an attitude of gratitude”.
One of the options for someone recovering from an alcohol problem is to speak to your doctor about using the protective drug, Antabuse. It is not addicting; it only reacts when you drink alcohol. It will make you physically sick. Why would anyone take this stuff, you might ask? When your mind is preoccupied with the idea of drinking all day and night, it is difficult to focus on anything else. Instead of having to make hundreds of decisions during the day not to drink, you make one decision – I am taking Antabuse today. Most people are not interested in testing the reaction. It is like having an insurance policy. It protects you against the impulsive first drink that can lead to disaster. It buys you time to consider your options. It buys you time to let the problem, the stress, or the anxiety to pass. It’s a good tool early in recovery and for times when you are feeling stressed or vulnerable.
If alcohol is not a problem for you, you still need to be cautious. For many drug addicts, the risk of relapse to their main drug is through beer or alcohol.
There are also new medications available that help reduce cravings. Ask your doctor if there is something suitable for you. However, medications do not change your lifestyle, so be vigilante in your recovery.
Parties and events will continue into January and pop up during the year. Plan for the event. Will there be alcohol or drugs? Is the venue a safe place; a place where you will not be triggered? Who will you go with? Try not to go alone. You can plan to arrive late and to leave early. Have a secret signal that lets the other person know that you are feeling uncomfortable and would like to leave.
Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening snack helps your blood sugar level not to drop. Mood swings and cravings are reduced when you eat regularly and include protein, carbohydrates and a little fat in your diet.
A good brisk walk is a simple way to get some exercise and also help you to cope better with stress. Watch your coffee intake. Coffee is a stimulant. It can make some people agitated and interfere with sleep. Speaking of sleep, make sure you get enough. When you are over-tired, you do not cope as well with stress. Remember ‘HALT’ – don’t get Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired!
Be well everyone!
M. Linda Bell
Chief Executive Officer – Bellwood Health Services